The Remember the Removal Bike Ride was started by the Cherokee Nation in 1984 for Cherokee youth to retrace the Trail of Tears and get a glimpse of the hardships their ancestors faced when they made the same trek on foot years before. That year about 20 students, ride coordinators and two consultants from Boston College set out on bicycles followed by vans and a school bus of supplies, including tents and food.
The ride became an annual event starting in 2009 and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians joined the ride in 2011. Today, the riders are selected based on an interview process. Then, the riders will complete a physical test and train for six months.
During the bike ride, cyclists visit the Kituwah Mound in the original Cherokee homeland. They stop at unmarked graves of their ancestors; visit New Echota, the former Cherokee capital in Georgia; stop at Blythe Ferry along the Tennessee River, where Cherokees gathered during their forced removal; and take time to reflect on their ancestors at Mantle Rock and other historic sites historic to the Cherokee people.
The leadership program now has more than 175 alumni.